People are dying in Los Angeles car crashes just as often as before coronavirus stay-home orders were issued, despite a significant decrease in traffic, officials said Thursday.
The L.A. Police Department is asking drivers to “slow down,” saying many are taking advantage of empty streets by speeding, sometimes with deadly consequences.
“Even with the stay at home order still in effect, we are currently at the same amount of fatalities that we had this time last year,” LAPD Cmdr. Marc Reina said during a news conference held in Watts, near the scene of a crash that killed three family members earlier this month.
So far, 86 people have died in car crashes this year, including 50 pedestrians and three bicyclists. Among the pedestrians killed, 14 of them were people living on the streets, Reina said.
Another 362 traffic collisions have resulted in severe injury, with 117 of those incidents involving pedestrians.
Before stay-home orders were issued March 19, L.A. was averaging one traffic fatality every 36 hours. Now, someone dies in a car crash about every 60 hours, in part due to a lull in the first two weeks of the order, Reina said.
About 30 of this year’s fatalities occurred after coronavirus restrictions were put in place, a rate that LAPD Deputy Chief Blake Chow called “alarming.”
Even as police were speaking Thursday morning, cars were speeding past them at 60 mph during the typical morning rush hour, according to Chow.
With more cars expected to return to the streets as businesses begin to reopen, officials are also concerned it will take some time for people to learn to share the road again, Chow said.
The deputy chief warned pedestrians and bicyclists to be aware of their surroundings and stay as far away from vehicles as possible.
“The bottom line is, a driver is in control of a 5,000 pound missile, essentially, and it doesn’t matter who’s at fault,” he said. “When they become involved in traffic collisions, we have serious consequences.”
Officials held their news conference at the intersection of Imperial Highway and Compton Avenue, near where a fatal three-car collision left three people dead on May 1. Investigators determined speed was a definite factor in the collision.
LAPD’s South Traffic Bureau has seen the most fatalities this year, with 31 traffic collision deaths.
The latest occurred Wednesday morning, when a 67-year-old man was killed in a hit-and-run near the intersection of Main Street and 47th Place in the South Park neighborhood.
The victim was crossing Main Street in a marked crosswalk shortly before 4 a.m. when a light-colored sedan headed north on Main hit him. A second car heading south then struck him as well. Both drivers left the scene without stopping to identify themselves or render aid.
The man died at the scene. His name was not being released, pending the notification of his next of kin.
“Please, save lives,” Capt. John Pinto said. “Put down the cellphone. Slow down. Obey the laws.”
Anyone with information on the hit-and-run can contact Detective Jose De Leon at 213-833-3713, or the Central Traffic Division watch commander at 213-486-3713. Calls after normal business hours should be directed to 877-527-3247.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct a statement about the rate of deadly car crashes in L.A.